The Golden Bowl (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – 5 Oct 2000
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Audio Download, Unabridged
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It is well written, the introduction useful, and the paperback price makes it acceptable for students. --Edna L Steeves, Univ. of Rhode Island
From the Back Cover
Henry James' story of a pair of adulterous lovers who are married, respectively, to a rich American collector of European art and to his inexperienced daughter provides--beyond its expensive, burnished, beautifully appointed exteriors--an understanding of the risks and betrayals inherent in society that is unparalleled in literature. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product description
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The main plot idea is pretty simple, as arguably are all James'. Maggie Verver and her father are both American and rely on each other to the exclusion of all others, in some ways a kind of incestuous relationship, but a simple innocent one, not something sordid. They both get married, neither of them knowing about the relationships of their partners. When Maggie finds out she decides to take some kind of action. At the same time we have the Assinghams, husband and wife looking on at what is happening, or rather we have the wife who reports everything to her husband.
Taking in how people can innocently contribute to problems, and due to ignorance don't realise what is going on under their noses, this book is a detailed and quite charged look at marriage, and how people have to work hard to keep a marriage intact at times.
So I took to reading the book when drowsy, often glass in hand, and contented myself with "getting the drift". And the drift is beautiful, seductive even. I found myself wanting to know what Charlotte and the Prince had been getting up to behind the scenes, and what Maggie would do to stop them doing whatever it was. A scene near the end, when Maggie lets Charlotte get away with claiming a victory, stunned me with its brilliance.
I'm glad I made the effort (and it certainly was an effort to begin with). The book is a flawed masterpiece (like the bowl itself - was that deliberate?). Give it a sympathetic go and you'll be rewarded.
The epicurean connoisseur at life's feast indulges himself in his last book with a fault to which he confessed himself prone: "to over-treat".
The writing is marred by endless empty sub-clauses, pointless repetition, rhetorical flourishes, & affected, stagey dialogue. The metaphors are forced and over-blown, the description of character hyperbolic, the drama suffocates under the weight of its own 'written-ness'. His late style marks a form of literary inflation: here he uses 50 words where in earlier work he used 5 to more powerful effect.
The 'Master' has, in short, run to fat.
Written in a beautifully ambiguous style, BOWL is full of ingenious symbolism, and must be experienced to be fully appreciated. James has decided to tell a story with a very unique voice, and it is likely that most readers will be scared off by the decidedly difficult prose. However, it is an absolute must for any serious reader who wants to challenge him/herself with what is arguably Henry James' best novel. It may take months to trudge through (as it did for me), but it is worth it!
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